Month: April 2016
Book Review: Monsoon War (the war of 1965)
From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain. (btw, maybe the gentlemanly conduct of both sides would be better described as chivalry?)
Book Review – The Monsoon War
Lieutenant General Tajindar Shergill and Captain Amarinder Singh’s book The Monsoon war is an encyclopedic work on 1965 India-Pakistan war. It is a detailed account of operations of all phases of 1965 war from the perspectives of junior officers. Authors have used extensive Indian material as well as Pakistani sources to provide a detailed picture of the conflict.
Book starts with the background of the conflict that culminated in open war in 1965. This is followed by details about the Run of Kutch conflict that was prelude to the war. Chapter five is especially a good read as it provides details of armor equipment of both armies and advantages and disadvantages. This helps the non-military reader to understand strengths and weaknesses of rival armies during the conflict. Authors provide details of some of the challenges faced by Indian army in the aftermath of Indo-China conflict of 1962. Rapid expansion of Indian army resulted in poorly armed and poorly trained formations. If Indian army was producing ‘nine months wonders’ for Indian army officer corps, Pakistan army was producing ‘pre-mature’ officers from Officers Training School with only eight months of training. In early 1960s, Pakistani officers were not happy with the pay as it had remained stagnant as well as lack of accommodations. When troops were used to construct accommodations, there was resentment among soldiers as they saw it below their dignity to work as laborers. Pakistani tanks had not carried out any tank firing for over two years as training ammunition provided by Americans was hoarded as ‘war reserve’. However, when war started majority of officers and soldiers on both sides fought to the best of their abilities.
Contrary to popular perceptions in Pakistan about Muslims of India, it is interesting to note that a number of Muslim soldiers and officers fought on Indian side. Lieutenant Colonel Salim Caleb (later Major General) was commanding 3rd Cavalry. 4th Grenadiers was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Farhat Bhatti (later Major General) and class composition of the battalion was A and B Jat, C Kaim Khani Muslim and D Dogra companies. GSO-3 of a division was Abdul Rasul Khan of 4th Grenadiers (later Colonel). Lieutenant Colonel Salim Chaudhri was CO of 4th Rajputana Rifles, Major A. K. Khan was 2IC of 8th Garhwal Rifles and B Squadron of 18th Cavalry was a Muslim squadron. Ironically, the platoon that ambushed Pakistani Brigadier A. R. Shami’s jeep in which he was killed was a Muslim platoon of 4th Grenadiers. Company Quartermaster Havaldar Abdul Hamid of 4th Grenadiers won a posthumous highest gallantry award Param Vir Chakra (PVC).
On page 108, it is suggested that change of command of 12th Division in the middle of operations from Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik to Major General Yahya Khan may be due to the fact that Malik was an Ahmadi (a heterodox sect of Muslims) and high command wanted to deny him the honor. The question of change of command has never been explained but sectarian factor was probably not the reason. Official ostracization and persecution of Ahmadis started much later in 1970s. At the time of 1965 war, disproportionately large number of Ahmadis was serving in all branches of armed forces. A number of Ahmadis were senior officers and many performed very well.
Book gives some insight into regimental intrigues. It is claimed that Corps Commander XV Corps Lieutenant General Katoch due to resentment over not being appointed Colonel of Sikh Regiment was responsible for not forwarding gallantry awards recommendations for 2nd Sikh Regiment. It is to the credit of Indian army as well as government that people were taken to the task for the acts of omission and commission. 161st Field Artillery Regiment serving under 10th Infantry Division abandoned its guns. Later, CO of the regiment was court martialled and GOC of 10th Division Major General B. D. Chopra was relieved of his command. GOC 15th Division Major General Niranjan Prasad was relieved of his command on September 07 and replaced by Major General Mohindar Singh. In fact irate Corps Commander XI Corps Lieutenant General Jogindar Singh Dhillon threatened Prasad with an immediate court martial in the field with the likelihood of being found guilty and shot. CO of 15th Dogra Lieutenant Colonel Indirjeet Singh was one step ahead of his retreating soldiers when panic struck the battalion. He first went straight to brigade headquarters and despite Brigade commander’s efforts raced all the way back to division headquarters. He was promptly placed under arrest, later court martialled, dismissed from service and given three year imprisonment sentence. CO of 13th Punjab was also removed from command. 48th Brigade Commander Brigadier K.J.S. Shahany was also relieved of his command and replaced by Brigadier Piara Singh. Pakistan army also penalized some officers but many were simply removed from the command and no detailed inquiries were conducted.
Book mentions role of some officers in 1965 war with amazing life experiences. Brigadier Anthony Albert ‘Tony’ Lumb was commander of 4th Armored Brigade of Pakistan army consisting of 5th Probyn’s Horse and 10th Frontier Force (FF). He was commissioned in 9th Royal Deccan Horse and this regiment was allotted to India in 1947. Tony opted for Pakistan army. In Khem Karan theatre, Tony was fighting against his old regiment Royal Deccan Horse of Indian army. In 1947 when Indian army was divided, Proby’s Horse and Deccan Horse had exchanged squadrons. In 1965, old Probyn’s squadron now carrying regimental color of Royal Deccan Horse was fighting against its own old regiment as Probyn’s Horse was part of 4th Armored Brigade. Tony was a Gallian; alumni of Lawrence College Ghora Gali. He migrated to Canada in 1967 where he died in 2013.
Major General Niranjan Prasad was commissioned in 4th Battalion of 12th Frontier Force Regiment (now 6 Frontier Force Regiment). This is parent battalion of current Pakistan army Chief General Raheel Sharif. Prasad was later seconded to Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) as Flight Lieutenant and fought Second World War with air force. He served with No: 1 Squadron commanded by K. K. Majumdar. Even in this capacity, he saved his battalion. 4/12 FFR was in Burma and during withdrawal towards Sittang and in the fog of war was strafed by RIAF planes. Prasad recognized the markings of his own battalion and helped in stopping the strafing by calling off further attacks. Later, he commanded No: 8 Squadron. Many other army officers also joined RIAF and never reverted back to army. Asghar Khan later became Air Marshal and C-in-C of Pakistan air force and Diwan Atma Ram Nanda retired as Air Vice Marshal in Indian air force. Prasad reverted back to army as he had problems with his commander. In 1962 Indo-China war, he was commanding 4th Division, was blamed for the disaster of 7th Brigade and sacked. A humiliated Prasad went to the airfield alone and not even a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) was sent to see him off. He petitioned the President against his sacking and was re-instated. 15th Division was raised in October 1964 and Prasad was appointed GOC. After the war games, his Corps Commander and Army Commander recommended his removal as he was found not fit to command. In a meeting with Chief of Army Staff (COAS), he was only given warning but not removed from the command. Chief gave the reason that Prasad had influence with higher authorities in Delhi and that they should ‘go easy on him’. Poor command cost Indian army dearly and a day after the start of the war Prasad was removed from the command. He had already written a representation against his sacking and Pakistanis got hold of it when his jeep was captured that contained his brief case.
Lieutenant (later Major) Shamshad Ahmed of 25th Cavalry of Pakistan army was the grandson of legendry Risaldar Major Anno Khan of 17th Poona Horse. Anno Khan decided to stay in India at the time of partition. His one son Yunus Khan also stayed in India, serving with 17th Poona Horse and retired as Risaldar. Anno’s other son Mehboob Khan had also served with 17th Horse and retired as Daffadar. In 1947, Mehboob decided to come to Pakistan. Mehboob’s son Shamshad Ahmad joined Pakistan army. In 1965 war, he was serving with 25th Cavalry of Pakistan army and his regiment fought against 17th Poona Horse; his family regiment. If Mehboob had decided to stay in India, it was very likely that his son Shamshad would have joined his family regiment and fighting against 25th Cavalry.
Indian and Pakistan armies are continuation of the Raj and they learned good sportsmanship from their British predecessors. They kept those traditions even during the war. In June 1965 during Run of Kutch operation Major Khusdil Khan Afridi (later Lieutenant General) of 8th Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army was captured. Afridi was winner of sword of honor of 4th Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) course. He was captured by Major Venky Patel (later Lieutenant General) then serving as OP of 1 Mahar commanded by Lieutenant Colonel (later General) K. Sundarji. Famous Indian actor Raj Kapoor’s hit movie Sangam was the talk of the day and Afridi requested if he could see the movie. He was taken under military escort to Ahmadabad to a theatre to watch the movie and then flown to Delhi to enjoy the fond memory of the movie during his captivity. Two pictures reproduced below taken immediately after ceasefire reflects the professionalism on both sides. In one picture Major Hira Singh is embracing Major Shafqat Baloch for putting up such a good show. In second picture, Indian officers are posing with their arms around their Pakistani counterparts when they met after cease fire. I remember another incident in 1971 war when an Indian officer after accepting the surrender of Pakistani officers took them to the mess and ordered a round of drinks before sending them off to captivity.
Picture: 1. Major Hira Singh of Indian army embracing Major Shafqat Hussain Baloch of 17 Punjab of Pakistan army after cease fire for outstanding performance.
Figure: 2. Officers of 3 Jat of Indian army and 8 Baluch of Pakistan army meeting after ceasefire. Note Sikh Indian officer with his elbow on the shoulder of the Pakistani officer and Pakistani officer putting his arm around Indian officer.
On page 1 is mentioned that Iskander Mirza was a former Major General in the Pakistan army and then transferred to the political service. This statement is incorrect as Mirza never served in Pakistan army. He was the first Indian commissioned from Sandhurst in 1920. Mirza joined his parent 33rd Cavalry Regiment stationed at Jhansi in 1922 after serving a year with a British regiment. Around the same time reorganization of Indian army was under way and 33rd Cavalry and 34th Cavalry were in the process of amalgamation to form 17th Poona Horse. Mirza remained with his regiment for only four years and transferred to Indian Political Service (IPS) in August 1926. He was Captain when he resigned his commission. He became Secretary Defense in newly independent state of Pakistan. Later, he became Governor General and President of Pakistan. Mirza was given the honorary rank of Major General for protocol purposes.
On page 2 it is mentioned that Ayub Khan’s father Mir Dad Khan was Risaldar Major of Hodson Horse. Mir Dad retired as Risaldar and not Risaldar Major of 9th Hodson Horse. He was enlisted in 1887 and during Great War; he went to France with his regiment in October 1914. He was evacuated to India due to ill health in 1915. He served with the regimental depot and retired in August 1918. He was awarded Order of British India (OBI) for his long and meritorious service but no gallantry award. During war, regiment’s list of Risaldar Majors includes Mir Jafar Khan, Malik Khan Muhammad and Dost Muhammad Khan. Mir Dad’s lifelong best friend and regimental buddy was Risaldar Muhammad Akram Khan and this friendship extended to the next generation. Mir Dad’s son Filed Marshal Ayub Khan and Akram Khan’s son Lieutenant General Azam Khan (4/19 Hyderabad Regiment) were close friends but in the end got estranged when jealousies of power crept in the relationship. On Page 83 CRPF is described as Central Reserve Peace Keeping Force but it should be Central Reserve Police Force.
On page 108, it is mentioned that ‘Yahya Khan was a Shia and a Pathan, as was Musa Khan’. This is only partially true as both were Shia but not Pathans. Major General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan was Shia but Persian speaking Qazalbash from Peshawar while General Muhammad Musa Khan was a Shia but Persian speaking Hazara from Quetta. On page 233, it is mentioned that Lieutenant Khizar Ullah of 3 SP Field Artillery Regiment had won sword of honor at PMA Kakul. I have list of all sword of honor winners of PMA Kakul and didn’t find the above named officer. It may be a mistake.
Monsoon war is an excellent and very thorough work about the conflict. It is to the credit of both authors that despite close personal relationship with some senior officers, they have remained objective and critically evaluated the conduct of war by senior brass. This book should be on the shelves of every military institution of training and instruction of India and Pakistan. Three works are essential in the library of anyone who is interested in the history of 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. In addition to Monsoon war, the other two works are Lieutenant General ® Mahmud Ahmad’s and Major ® Agha H. Amin’s encyclopedic work on Indian-Pakistan war of 1965.
Lieutenant General Tajindar Shergill and Captain Amarinder Singh. The Monsoon War: Young Officers Reminiscence 1965 India-Pakistan War (New Delhi: Lustre Press Roli Books, 2015)
April 29, 2016
Defence Journal, May 2016.
Operation Z to A
Dr Hamid Hussain on operation Zarb e Azb:
Following was at the request of a good friend and well informed Pakistani officer who has a more pessimistic view about ongoing operations. As expected, even in army there are diverse opinions depending on the knowledge and experience of particular officer. In my interactions I found quite a broad range. On one end, some have already declared victory and planning victory parades and elevating their favorite senior officers to high pedestals, others are more realistic and know that the water is more muddier when you get close to it and still others who are quite pessimistic as regional dynamics are beyond Pakistan’s control. This is not unusual as every conflict generates different views in the military that is tasked with tackling the problem. I incorporated some views of tribesmen (most keep their thoughts to themselves as environment is not very conducive for a candid discussion). In addition, many non-Pakistanis are kind enough to candidly share their perspectives and I incorporated that perspective even if I don’t fully agree with that.
Pakistan Army Military Operations – Summary
“War is uncertainty, characterized by friction, chance and disorder”. Clausewitz
From 2003 to 2008, for a variety of reasons, Pakistani state gradually lost control over federally administered tribal areas. The reasons were more related to strategic myopia at the highest level rather than strength of the militants. It took a while before military leadership understood the nature of the threat and started more professional planning, training and overhauling doctrine to face the new threat. The nature of modern militaries is such that from conception to application on the ground takes time.
In post 2008 period, military embarked on a cautious push back. In an effort to limit civilian casualties, civilians were asked to leave the intended area of operation. This approach while beneficial on one level had a serious drawback as militants also moved on to their next rest stop before the start of operations. The nature of the terrain with hills, forests and narrow gorges meant that interdiction attempts will be high risk. In the early part of the operations, Special Services Group (SSG) was used to interdict some escape routes but when casualties mounted, this approach was scaled back. The result was that majority of the militants including important leaders escaped the net. Many mid and high level commanders of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were eliminated by U.S. drone strikes. By 2012, army was able to take control of major towns of Malakand division and many tribal agencies. Only swamp left was North Waziristan. Under the direction of the office of the Chief of General Staff (CGS), final push towards North Waziristan was finalized and inner circle of Corps Commanders gave the nod for the operation. However, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani didn’t give the final go for reasons best known to him. In my view, his own nature of contemplation and slower decision making process, deteriorating relations with United States and quarrels with political leadership made him think twice. He was criticized for this and some ridiculed him with ‘analysis-paralysis’ syndrome. To be fair to Kayani, people tend to forget the environment in which he was working. General public opinion was not in favor of military operations, army was not trained for the task, security forces had experienced some embarrassing early reversals and state had lost not a small geographic area but lost control over large swaths of a very difficult terrain. Army had gradually asserted control over Malakand division, Kurram, South Waziristan, Mohmand and Bajawar agencies as well as large parts of Orakzai and Khyber agencies during the tenure of Kayani. However, he could have proceeded with North Waziristan operation earlier. When General Raheel Sharif succeeded Kayani in November 2013, he gave the final order and wheels were set in motion for North Waziristan operation. In June 2014, operation was formally started after many announcements asking locals to leave. A large number of militants also listened and moved across the border.
In most operations especially post 2008, army asked everybody to leave and then considered the territory ‘hostile’. Those who remained were viewed with suspicion either as outright ‘hostile’ in sympathy with militants or not serving as ‘gracious hosts’ to the army. Army was given unprecedented authority of kill and capture and they could use artillery and air assets as well as authority to destroy residential and commercial buildings. There is significant local resentment and it is not due to sympathy with militants but tribesmen are distressed by liberal use of bombings. These sentiments could have been ameliorated by more robust engagement of tribesmen and explaining to them the need for some of the measures such as curfews and neutralization of heavily fortified areas and tunnels with artillery and air assets. A large number of tribesmen (not militant sympathizers) from Waziristan have taken refuge in Afghanistan.
In moving forward, one main hurdle is deep suspicion between army and civilian administrators of tribal areas. Currently, there is almost universal denouncement of civilian administration by the army. In my conversations with a number of army officers they consider civilian political agent system as corrupt and inefficient and there is an element of truth in it (even today, many tribesmen recount with fond memory to me the bygone era of British political agents). On the other hand, civilians criticize army for focusing only on kinetic operations and monopolizing all development projects in tribal areas thus not allowing civilian set up to gradually re-assert and they also have a valid point. In current situation, tribesmen know where the power center lies and they work directly with Colonels and Brigadiers. In the long run, army has to hand over to the civilian set up in tribal areas. This is army’s ticket out and no matter how imperfect ultimately civilian structure needs to be put in place in secured areas. Both parties should remember that they are on the same team and need to work together if they want to succeed. When army helped to equip and train police, the performance of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK) provincial police markedly improved. Similar joint efforts can improve working relationship but army should be willing to share power while civilian administrators have to take some risks and go back to work among people.
At general public level the ‘success’ of Operation Zarb-e-Azb is mainly at psychological level where average Pakistani not aware about the nuances came out of the depression and some sense of confidence is visible. Operationally, securing of main towns and major roads removed industrial scale bomb making factories resulting in marked reduction in large scale bombings of military and civilian targets. This also resulted in removal of militants from general population which is an important piece of any counter-insurgency struggle. There has been marked improvement of efficiency of the army. I can see a sea change in terms of morale, training, efficiency, vigor and willing to tough it out in a very harsh terrain. One would not recognize the company, battalion and brigade level commanders of present army when compared with pre 2001 era. War is a great auditor and teacher of institutions. Army has reeled back from a perilous course and learned some very valuable and right lessons from the conflict. This is good omen both for the army and for the country.
The question of Pakistani TTP militants taking refuge in Afghanistan needs special elaboration. First, the nature of Pakistan-Afghanistan border is such that it is very difficult to control cross border movement. In the past, when Afghans and Americans complained about Afghan militants taking refuge on Pakistani territory after attacking targets in Afghanistan, Pakistanis told them that it was beyond their capacity. To my knowledge, up to 2008, Afghans, Americans and Indians had no business with TTP (also hands off as far Baluch were concerned). One needs to make a distinction between intelligence gathering and intelligence based covert operations using local assets. In view of multifaceted challenge, Pakistan’s neighbors as well as western intelligence agencies need information about the cauldron just as Pakistan needs information about threats to its own national interests. Intelligence gathering is an accepted norm (in addition channels are also used especially for negotiating prisoner swaps or release of prisoners for money and Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States and Iran have used the channels for this specific purpose) but one needs to take a long deep breath before embarking on covert operations where unintended consequences usually surpass intended consequences. Afghan and American outrage followed by Indian outrage at Mumbai carnage in 2008 changed the dynamics. All three parties were convinced that Pakistan will not change its behavior and in internal debate, hawks got an upper hand. Now, TTP became another bargaining chip in the dirty games and national narrative on each side became more confused and erratic. In February 2013, commander of militants in Bajawar Faqir Muhammad and in October 2013 Hakimullah Mahsud’s envoy Latif Mahsud were arrested in Afghanistan. There was some confusion regarding Latif and he was snatched by U.S. Special Forces from intelligence personnel of National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Afghanistan. Later, he was handed over to Pakistan and a shaved and more humbled Latif is now singing like a canary. If Pakistan had no interest in going after Afghan Taliban on its territory then surely Afghans and Americans were in no hurry to go after Mullah Fazlulluah parked in Nazyan in eastern Ningarhar province.
The complexity of current situation can be judged from events in remote areas of Ningarhar and Kunar where there is great pow wow of Afghan Taliban, Pakistani TTP and Daesh. Pakistani militants who escaped from Pakistan army’s operation in Orakzai and Khyber agencies crossed the border into eastern Afghanistan and strengthened the hand of nascent Daesh. With this newly acquired muscle, Daesh starting from Shinwar district cleared the Taliban and expanded influence in Achin, Nazyan, Spin Ghar, Khogyani and Chaparhar districts. When Pakistanis obliged Washington, U.S. drones started to hunt for Fazlullah and he narrowly escaped. Afghans and United States gave a free pass to Afghan Taliban while Tehran happily handed some cash so that Afghan Taliban could thin the ranks of Daesh. Afghan Taliban assembled a large posse and went after Daesh and in the process downgraded their structure. Since the start of 2016, U.S. has expanded its drone policy against Daesh in eastern Afghanistan with more wider targeting authority. Militants will now likely move towards Kunar and drones will also likely follow them there. Drones need to be integrated with Afghan security forces and local militias to prevent militants from entrenching in a specific geographic area. It will be interesting to see how the conflict unfolds in Kunar as there will be a volatile mix of militants from Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbadin Hikmatyar, local Salafi armed groups and newly arrived Daesh as well as Pakistani militants who have crossed over from Bajawar.
All concerned parties (Pakistan, United States, Afghanistan, Iran, India; in that order of importance) suffer from the same illness and that is sacrificing long term interests for short term gains. The desire of ‘instant gratification’ is so strong that they lose the larger picture. All this is happening in the backdrop of deep suspicions about motives of the ‘other’. Reminds me Henry Kissinger’s words quoted in Beschloss’s May Day about Cold war when he summed up the behavior of the two super powers as ‘like two heavily armed men feeling their way around a room, each believing himself in mortal peril from the other, whom he assumes to have perfect vision. Each tends to ascribe to the other a consistency, foresight and coherence that its own experience belies’. Some adult supervision is needed at many levels where each party understands its own limitations and finds ways to work on common grounds despite genuine differences.
“They who run for cover with every reverse, the timid and faint of heart, will have no part in winning the war. Harry Hopkins
Note: These views are based my interaction with diverse groups of people not only well informed but also ordinary folks including Pakistanis, Indians, Afghans and Americans as well as travels to the region.
April 17, 2016